A DISEASE could decimate the UK’s sheep export industry just as farmers were making inroads into traditional Australian markets in the EU.Last year UK sheep meat exports rose by 11 per cent with a strong demand from Europe, placing it third behind Australian and New Zealand as a global sheep trade producer, adelaidenow reports.
Such was the capacity of the industry, two months ago some Scottish farmers particularly were calling on two major UK supermarket chains Tesco and Asda to drop its sizeable Aussie and Kiwi sheep imports.
But the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed the incidence of Schmallenberg disease is back and some expect it to be up to double what it was last year when the disease crisis first struck.
The disease, which causes still births and deadly deformities from fused limbs to twisted necks, was expected to die out in colder months but has now been confirmed found on 1000 UK farms spreading across every English country, through Wales and Ireland and up to the Scottish border region. It can also affect calves.
“I know of about 120 flocks lambing already and the average loss is 30 to 35 per cent,” National Farmers’ Union livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said.
“It is making people very nervous about what will happen when the lambing season gets fully underway.” Defra has reported lambing losses in flocks as high as 50 per cent already this month.
Schmallenberg virus, which is carried by midges, was named after the German town where it was first seen a year ago and it has since spread across Europe arriving in England in autumn last year. It is now moving faster than the deadly bluetongue disease of 2007.
Full story, adelaidenow.com.au